How was your Black Friday shopping trip? Did you manage to get out of the stores with minimal damage to your physical and financial selves?
I didn't make it to stores today. I never join in the post-Thanksgiving shopping madness. Too many leftovers at home to take care of, not to mention more football.
It appears I am in the minority. The Wall Street Journal has a Holidaysales Blog that promises "News, Trends and Analysis for the Key Shopping Season." According to a post earlier today, product categories that are doing well among early shoppers at Best Buy are PCs, GPS systems, digital imaging like digital cameras and home theaters.
Honestly though, Black Friday is just not worth it to
me. I like good deals as much as the next person, but I do not like the
crush of shoppers. I've never understood the mindset of
deranged dedicated shoppers.
Just what is it that makes seemingly rationale folks camp out in parking lots in near-freezing temps, which is what folks here in Austin did last night, just to be the first through the store doors at
rabid avid shoppers contend that's the only way to get the very lowest prices. But I suspect bargains will continue to crop up until Dec. 24.
And, of course, if you can wait, there are always the post-Christmas sales with retailers trying to clear out inventory before year end.
Other shopping options: There's always remote shopping. The Web site Black Friday 2007 has info on online deals. It also offers message boards where you can share info and tips with similarly single-minded shoppers.
Online is my main shopping mode, along with the old-fashioned catalogs that have been jamming our curbside box for weeks now. Thumb through them, then log on to order.
I'm also getting e-mail alerts about free shipping, which is always nice.
The one downside of online shopping is that if an item arrives damaged, you have to send it back and start over.
And I admit that there are some times when I actually want to see more than a photo, online or in a catalog, before I buy. But I'll wait another week or so to brave the stores, which I suspect will still be trying to lure latecomers with sales then, too.
Being a better sales shopper: If you, however, like the hustle and bustle of in-store shopping on big sale days, here are some tips to make sure you really do get the advertised bargain.
- Read the sale ads carefully, looking for terms like "quantities limited," "no rain checks" or "not available at all stores." Call the merchant beforehand to make sure the item you want is in stock. If it's a popular or hard-to-find product, find out if the store manager will hold the item for you.
- Take time and travel costs into consideration. The product's lower price might be great, but if you have to drive all the way across town, how much are you really saving once you factor in your time and transportation and parking costs?
- Look for price-matching policies. Some merchants will match, or even beat, their competitors' prices. Read the pricing policy carefully to make sure that some products aren't excluded.
- Ask about refund and return policies for sale items. Retailers might have different procedures for sale items, especially clearance merchandise.
Now that you've improved your shopping savvy, put on some comfortable shoes and hit those sales!
Tax reminder: And don't forget about the taxes that will add up on most of your purchases.
On 2007 returns, you'll have the option to deduct income or sales taxes if you itemize. This tax break expires Dec. 31, but a House bill to extend it another year, or two more on the Senate side, are in the works.
So if you buy a major holiday gift, like a hot-selling home theater system mentioned earlier, and pay a lot of sales tax on it, hang onto the receipt. It might be more than what the preset sales tax tables will allow.
At any rate, the sales tax amount might be enough that, when added to other receipts you've been collecting, happen to have on hand, or are going to start keeping for the rest of the year, to push you over the standard sales tax deduction amount and give you a bigger tax break.